Beck - Modern Guilt
Modern Guilt (Interscope, 2008)
As one of the more anticipated releases this year, Beck’s Modern Guilt is piquing the curiosity of listeners everywhere, thanks to his obvious musical staying power, coupled with the audio power-boost in regards to collaboration with well-known producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton. (Whose credits includ Gnarls Barkley’s St. Elsewhere and the Beatles-Jay-Z mashup The Grey Album, to name two).
With thrashing modern-rock guitars, echoing lulling vocals and a smorgasbord of aggressive instrumentals, Modern Guilt sounds a bit like a blend of two albums: 2001’s Sea Change and his last release, 2005’s The Information. There’s a definite balance and yin/yang feel within this album, and Beck exhibits his bad ass side as well as being a hopeless sentimental, swaying from one to the other over the course of the record. In terms of composure, Modern Guilt is more in-line with stereotypical, classic rock n’roll than past releases, which, as Beck proves, is not that a bad thing. As he does with most of his genre-hopping, Beck pulls it off with ease, surrounding Cream-esque guitar solos with plenty of futuristic, beep-booping keyboards and unique melodies to keep listeners anticipating his next move.
True to form, Modern Guilt is all over the auditory map, reeling us in with catchy openers like "Orphans," followed up by the trippy and hypnotic "Chemtrails," a song that starts out with haunting, soft vocals, like something you’d hear off The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Around mid-album, Beck gracefully nosedives into the down-trodden, moody “Volcano," a song drunk with an orgy of strings meshed with acoustic and electric guitars. Beck teases with simple lyrics about bigger issues, preaching in "Modern Guilt" that “These people talk about impossible things…modern guilt is all in our hands.”
Sir Beck has come a long way from his first album Mellow Gold, but it’s clear he hasn’t lost his alternative roots, and that there’s always room to experiment. Modern Guilt definitely displays a an edgier, more complicated sound than we’ve experienced from Beck in the past; and the genius of the Beck/Danger Mouse dream team becomes painfully obvious when listening to tracks like "Profanity Prayers," slammed with heavy drum-beats and tripped up vocals, making it hard to listen to without gettin’ down.
Beck has perfected the fine art of not really fitting into one particular niche, and with each album, he seems to outdo himself by bringing more unique elements to his sound, whether that be with instruments, talented people to assist him on projects, or from his own eclectic self. Modern Guilt will definitely go down as one of 2008’s better albums, and one that actually lived up to its hype.
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